Turkey was the first non-European country we visited and we felt a bit like finishing the training leg (Europe) of the journey here, and starting the real adventure after Istanbul.
We’ve spent exactly 50 days in Turkey. Out of this, we had a two week rest in Istanbul with our families and almost a week in Trabzon, while we’ve been waiting for our Iranian visas. The remaining 30 days were spent on the road, cycling across this vast country.
We had high hopes for Turkey, because every traveller’s account we’ve read before spoke of the generosity of its people; and Turkey managed to exceed all our expectations.
Turkish people seem to have a very strong inner need to care for travellers. They take pride in offering hospitality and whatever they can to make them, us, more comfortable. They also seem to know that a country’s perception, and especially the way it is remembered after a period of time, depends not on the beauty of it’s landscapes, but the way it’s people made you feel while you visited.
Picnicing around Tekirdag
We got our first big portion of Turkish Hospitality in Tekirdağ. Our host was a CouchSurfing newbie, we were his first ever guests but we’re quite sure he’ll grow to be a pro CS host in no time!
We arrived late in the evening, but Hüseyin, a professor of Tekirdag uni was still in Ankara, ready to board a plane back to Tekirdag. Nevertheless, he asked one of his pupils, Ilker, to meet us, lead into his flat, make sure we’re ok and full of freshly brewed turkish tea.
The next day we visited him in the uni, as we were fast asleep when he got back, and he was already at work when we woke up. He showed us around the uni campus and town, and his class schedule lined up perfectly with our internet and blog-writing needs.
Once we were done blogging and he finished with his professor duties, we hopped into the car with two of his pupils. After a quick foodshopping interlude we headed 30kms west of Tekidag, for a good reason: the scenery was just amazing; no wonder it’s a paraglider’s paradise. To our biggest surprise, piece by piece, a whole picnic set emerged from the trunk of the car – Hüseyin is an avid mountaineer/trekker, organises regular hikes to the mountains all across Turkey and also the head of the uni’s mountaineering group.
With our stomachs full, we took a slight detour on the way home to a small town with just one or two hundred inhabitants. While the professor was chatting with the locals, sipping green tea, we were showed around the cute village, as it’s a favourite hike starting point for the mountaineering group.
Anatolian Planes vs Black Sea Coast
In Istanbul we’ve been regular tourists and spent two weeks exploring and sightseeing with our families and friends. But as soon as they flew home, saying they final goodbyes for a year, it was time for us to head East once again.
It was not easy to decide our route in the northern part of the country, and we did not necessarily made the right choice either.
After leaving Istanbul, we cycled about a hundred kilometres south of the Black Sea cost, near the so called Anatolian Plains. There was wind, and not ten flat kilometres on our way, but the road quality was fabulous (as everywhere in Turkey), and the people were as lovely as the landscape around.
We joined the Black Sea cost a hundred kilometres before Samsun, which was great, because we needed to climb through a mountain which turned out to be quite fun, and also because we saw Samsun, “the Texas of Turkey”. (No kidding, in Samsun you can smell the testosterone in the air: bar fights, beach fights, guns… you don’t mess with Samsun people.) Nevertheless, cycling the Black Sea coast was a bit boring. 650 kilometres on flat wide roads hugging the coastline, the same scenery each day.
If we could do it again, I would definitely cycle inland through the plains as long as possible. That route was extremely scenic, with the scenery changing constantly around us. The people were friendly and less used to tourists than anyone near the cost. It was also more conservative, hence, more interesting to us.
But with all that being said, we wouldn’t change this trip – because of the fantastic people we’ve met on the coast: our hosts in Karabük, Samsun, Ordu and Trabzon! They all enriched our experience and showed us a different view on Turkish life.
Eating away the days in Trabzon
We expected to have our Iranian visa handed to us in a day, but instead we’ve been sentenced for a week of waiting. Thanks for that, Iran! As it turns out, it couldn’t have turned out better. Instead of rushing towards Georgia the next day, we spent a whole week with our fantastic host, Nuri and a cyclist couple from Oz: Leiset and Paul.
We founded the Austra-Hungarian Empire (in Turkey, ironically), cooked and ate together (loooads!), played games, chatted endlessly and explored some nearby landmarks.
Nuri even got us surprise tickets to a uni concert where we had the chance to hear the local pop icon, Hande Yener. The music was a kind of mixture between Lagzilajcsi mulatós and Kozmix – for the non-hungarian readers, first one is a sort of 90’s country-folk music and second one is also from the 90’s, a singing disco-dance ‘thing’. We truly enjoyed the experience, jumping around with thousands of Turkish youngsters (85-90% male, of course) in pouring rain.
As Leiset and Paul have already toured South-America on their bikes, after our week together we not only gained two new friends, but also a huge amount of bike-touring knowledge and random tips and tricks.
We’ll share some of these in the future.
Before we left, we all set our minds on learning some Persian. Hopefully, we’ll meet again in Iran, and by that time the four founders of the Austra-Hungarian Empire will be able to chat in Farsi as well. Shoma chetur hastin?
After leaving Trabzon, we faced three days of bad weather: it was constant drizzle with occasional showers. By the second day, all our kit and clothes were damp and we had no chance of drying them. But it can’t last forever, so we kept on going.
On our last night, only 5 kilometres from the Georgian border, Turkey made a last effort to make itself memorable. Once again, we’ve been found on the road and invited in for food in the most natural manner.
Video journal of our time in Turkey
You must have noticed that we started creating videos instead of long blog entries. We enjoy experimenting with the camera and really hope that in a few months we can develop our skills to better capture our adventures. And yes, we also need to resource a microphone. :)
V – Click the PLAYLIST button to see the list of videos we made in Turkey.
We’ve added a few recently that weren’t published on Facebook.
We loved Turkey and will miss it! But now we’re also eager to move on. Six weeks in a country seemed a bit too long: we tried most of the food, chatted about every aspect of life and got a good general picture of the country and the culture. It’s a false notion, of course, as we’ve only managed to visit a small portion of this vast country. We saw nothing of the Kurdish area in the South East, famous for it’s hospitality, or the South Western and Southern coasts with it’s famous cuisine and beautiful beaches. So we’ll definitely be back sometime in the future, touring the South of Turkey and digging even deeper.
We’re also curious to see how the country will turn out on the international scene: will they align themselves to Europe, or will they keep moving closer to the islamic states of the Middle East?
But until then, Georgia, here we come!
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